The space is warm and inviting, playing on their eponymous animal without being kitschy- from the pervasive, mouth-watering smoky pork smell to the brightly colored pig-themed posters and decor. It's the type of place that you just instantly feel comfortable in, with an open yet cozy floor plan. Our group settled in at a side table and started discussing the menu. On the smaller side, but with each item sounding more delicious than the last- a handful of specials made decision-making even tougher.
I embraced the French influence of the menu and started with the escargots ($12). Served in a small ceramic crock, the fat snails were immersed in a sage-scented sauce- the base of which was a chunky fresh tomato and fennel broth. A compound butter melted in to the mix added garlic, herbs, and a creamy richness. Chewy bits of salty pancetta complemented the soft, delicate escargots.
A started with the sausage cassoulet ($12), a simple bowl of slow-cooked beans topped with several thick, crisp sausage patties reminscent of breakfast sausage. The sausage oozed a spiced oil that coated the beans . Definitely another rich and hearty dish that is perfect for fall.
Another app that we got to taste (sharing was encouraged) was the crispy chicken livers ($11). This dish has gotten a lot of positive press, and I really enjoyed the piece that I ate. The outside of each piece of liver is crunchy crispy, while the inside is firm and smooth. The actual flavor of the liver is certainly present but not alone- a sweet sun-dried cherry and balsamic reduction coated everything, with some pine nuts thrown in for crunch. A didn't enjoy the liver flavor but appreciated the sauce- we love all things dried cherry. I think liver is an acquired taste, but the cooking technique and flavor pairings were spot-on.
One of our favorite starters was the fried oysters ($14)- four enormous oysters in a thick coating of batter and fried to perfection. The golden crust was a flaky jacket around each sea-salted bivalve. Bacon aioli never hurts either. I appreciated that these could be cut into pieces without losing their structure- an interesting characteristic that I have yet to see on a fried oyster. Our well-versed foodie friend moved these to the top of his Best Fried Oysters list, and I can't argue with that.
Our table also ordered a special app of the evening- gnocchi with braised hare. Our waiter made a slight "mistake" in our order, which we actually appreciated- we ended up with the special gnocchi as well as the "regular" gnocchi- the same soft potato pillows with pig cheeks, peas, and a Reggiano cream sauce. I really loved the lighter pork and pea version- the flavor of the shredded hare meat was pretty intense. The gnocchi weren't my favorite- texturally, I prefer them crispy and pan-fried.
|The hare version.|
I didn't eat much of the gnocchi because I was saving room for the next round of food. For my main course, I went with Cochon's Choucroute Garni ($26). French for "dressed sauerkraut," this dish incorporated three different types of pork atop a bed of warm, mustard-y sauerkraut, fingerling potatoes, and a few crunchy pickles- an incredibly hearty meal (and completely shareable- tons of food). The two spare-ribs were my favorite- thick slabs of smoky meat falling right off the bone. The waitress who brought this plate to the table encouraged me to use my hands. No problem! The thick-cut, fat-marbled ham had a subtle sweetness to counter it's salty juiciness. I embarrassingly mistook an enormous slab of pork belly for a piece of crusty baguette, which actually would have been a nice addition to the meal. I'm not a huge fan of the super-fatty meat, but the rest of the table raved about the pieces I slipped onto their plates. I loved that I could get a good feel for what Cochon could do with a pig with just this one dish- it was wonderful.
|Too many meats to focus: spareribs in foreground, ham on right, pork belly in the back.|
Although we had been encouraged to order the pork shank (and it looked amazing from my view of neighboring tables), A & I both wanted to try the Berkshire Pork Shoulder Steak ($25). The base of the plate was incredible- a pile of al dente green lentils and charred Brussels sprouts in a red wine reduction. I could eat that every day. A generous slab of tender pork shoulder was pre-sliced (don't know why, but we love that), revealing a pink meat with a darker, seared edge. Similar to a pork loin in flavor and texture, the meat was a tad too salty for my enjoyment, but A was in salty meat heaven. A fried egg on top for good measure tied the rustic elements of the dish together.
Our dining mates ordered the Bacon-fried Pork Chop and the Pan-seared Skate- the former was thick cut, fatty, and incredibly juicy- a truly decadent chop- while the latter was really the only disappointment of the night- dry and salty. After the requisite break to chat and digest (love that we were not rushed at ANY point during this almost three hour meal), our waiter told us about the dessert menu. Because there were four options ($8/each), and four of us eating, the decision was pretty easy. One of each, please!
I can't say enough good things about these desserts. They truly were the perfect ending to the meal. After a barrage of salty, savory, meaty goodness, the desserts were each sweet in a subtle, complex way. My favorite was the "Poor Man's Pudding"- a rich, maple syrup pudding topped with a thick layer of shortbread dough cooked to form a flaky biscuit-y top. A scoop of creamy bacon ice cream on top, and this dessert became my new "pure food genius."
My second favorite was the bread pudding- somewhat similar to the above, but with a crumbly top, butter pecan ice cream, and an absolutely mouth-watering caramel sauce- it was like someone made caramel.. and then used the caramel to make caramel. If that makes any sense- it was just ultra thick and ultra rich and ultra amazing.
Number three and four on my list were a raspberry compote topped with a nutty granola and a simple chocolate torte. Good, but nothing spectacular. I prefer a denser, darker torte- this one was a bit lighter, and the flavor was a little too subtle for my overly stimulated tastebuds.
The service was another highlight of the meal- at one point while we were waiting for dessert to come out, I realized there were spoons placed at each setting. When I asked "When did these spoons get here?", one of our friends laughed at me... and then admitted he had no idea. Subtle service is a true art form. As I mentioned before, the coursing of the meal was timed well, giving us enough time to enjoy, thoughtfully analyze, and discuss each dish without a rush. We all agreed the appetizers and desserts were our favorite parts of the meal- book-ending a fun evening of feasting.
Cochon recently celebrated their four year anniversary- here's to many more! I can't wait to return.
801 East Passyunk Avenue (Passyunk & Catharine)
BYO & cash only